A Mental Break

A blog dedicated to mental health

Month: May 2019

17 Songs That Improve My Mood

If you know me then you know that music plays a huge part in my day to day life. From a young age I grew to appreciate music and several of its genres. As a queer man fighting anxiety and depression it’s difficult not feel awful a lot of the times. In these moments of feeling trapped in my head by my thoughts I sometimes turn to music to escape. There are a handful of songs that always improve my mood, put a smile on face and they even get me dancing.

Evidence shows though several studies that listening to upbeat music can improve mood. The American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) reports that music therapy programs can help with managing stress among other ailments. Over the last couple weeks I have been compiling a list of songs that make me happy. These songs usually put me in a good mood and I have been using them as a part of my therapy recently.
These songs:

• Span several genres that I love

• Are upbeat and make me dance.

• Have themes of overcoming life’s setbacks and persevering

• Have themes about love and being in love

• Remind me of specific times in my life when I was happy.

Check out my list below and follow the link to listen on Spotify. Or you can click on the song titles to be taken to Youtube.

Top 17 songs that improve my mood (and make me dance)!

1. “Breathin” – Ariana Grande

I can relate to this song so much “Some days things take way too much of my energy. I look up and the whole world’s spinning.” This reminds me to keep breathing through whatever is happening because things will get better.


2. “These Words” – Natasha Bedingfield

This song reminds me of my nephew and those times we shared. I remember he would help me sing this song (even though he didn’t know how to pronounce the words). I would sing the verses while he would “sing” the chorus.

3. “Live For Today” – Natalie Grant

Most days I get overwhelmed when imagine my future. This song reminds me to live one day at a time and enjoy every single day for what it is worth.



I love the way Rebecca St. James sings/talks in her Australian accent throughout. This song references Matthew chapter 6 verses 25 – 34 (some of my favorite scripture verses).


5. “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” – Kelly Clarkson

Even though this is a break up song I still use this as a part of my music therapy. The title says it all for me and this song reminds me that I am stronger than I think.

 6.”Ain’t Got No, I Got Life” – Nina Simone

I could write an entire entry on Nina Simone as she is one of my favorite artists. This song encourages me to be thankful for what I do have. I may not have much but I have life and with that I have the chance to make  my situation better.

7.”O-o-h Child” – The Five Stairsteps.

This song has seen its fair share of covers over the years, but the simple reaffirming message makes this one of my go to when I’m feeling less than encouraged.


8.”We Got Love” – Ryan Shaw

Who doesn’t love to be in love?? This song is the perfect love song. It makes me think of finding my partner and sharing my life with that person.


 9.”Sometimes” – The Brand New Heavies

This is one of the songs that remind me of a simpler time in life. I remember seeing this video playing on BET while growing up, but I never knew the name of group. Years later while searching through the discography of The Brand New Heavies I rediscovered this gem.


10.”Love Will Never Do” – Janet Jackson

I have been a Janet Jackson fan for as long as I have been alive. If you see me wearing headphones and my face turns into a smile then song playing. Another video I grew up watching.


  11.”Show Me Love” – Robin S

I LOVE house music! I consider this song THE ultimate 90’s house track and anyone who disagrees can square up. This timeless song with its pulsating synths will forever make me dance.



12.”Just Fine” – Mary J Blige

Like Mary says at the beginning “This joint right here….” It’s so happy and all about loving yourself. Its repetitive hook reassures me each time.


13.”Day like Today” – Out Of Eden

I always enjoy the storytelling in this song. We have all had those days where it feels like nothing is going right and it’s problem after problem. The hook reminds me that even though today is a trash day it won’t always be this way.


14.”Life Me Up” – The Benjamin Gate

This song always gives me a rush of energy! It’s the perfect song for when I’m lifting in the gym or when I’m going down the highway. It’s so euphoric!


15.”Pushing the Senses” – Feeder

Don’t tell anyone this BUT I secretly want to be a part of a rock band and this song helps me fulfill that fantasy (in my head). This one also gives me a boost adrenaline.


Another song that helps me to take a look at everything I have. Everything may not be perfect but I should still be thankful for what I do have.


 17.”Bom Feeling” – Sara Tavares

Bom feeling means good feeling in English. Even though this song is in Portuguese I have always appreciated the essence of the message in this song. Over the years I have learned parts of this song so I could sing along while enjoying the good feeling.


So that’s my list for 17 songs that help to improve my mood when I have those difficult days. I included 3 more tracks to make this a round hefty 20 track playlist (you’re welcome). The playlist is available on Spotify for you to listen and enjoy. Now that I have shared my list it’s your turn to sound off! What song improves your mood? Comment below……



American Psychological Association


American Music Therapy Association Mission


What is Panic Attack Disorder? An Inside Look at How I Cope.

For the last few weeks, I have looked at anxiety, its effect on my life and how I have coped. As I mentioned before, some people deal with many anxiety disorders at once. Unfortunately, I am one of those unlucky people. While I have lived with social anxiety for as long as I can remember, panic attacks are something new.

Living with Panic Attack Disorder

Most persons might have heard the terms anxiety attack and panic attack (and may have used the terms in place of each other), but most medical sources differentiate the two. An anxiety attack is intense worrying over imminent major or minor events such as death, being late for an appointment or an uncertain outcome.
I know I have had several anxiety attacks especially when I operated my bakery about 7 years ago. I remember the moments when I would start hyperventilating because I felt I would not have enough time to finish a large order. I remember being so worried about the final presentation when preparing wedding cakes. I did not want to be known as the baker who spoiled the bride’s big day. I was familiar with those feelings of fear, but nothing could have prepared me for a panic attack or living with this disorder.
Panic attack disorder could be classified as repeated panic attacks that last for several minutes or longer. These episodes can send patients to the emergency room because some persons may think they are having a heart attack. 
This happened to me about a year ago and it started while I was at work. I wasn’t even a full hour into my shift when I became overwhelmed by emotion. I had a sinking feeling and I remember being very dizzy. It felt like I was falling down a hole (that’s the best way I can describe the feeling). That’s when the shortness of breath and chest pain started. At the time I had no idea what was happening and I was very concerned because I thought it was a heart attack or a stroke. When I arrived in the emergency room the nurses connected me to several machines to track my heart. I spent hours admitted to the emergency so undergoing tests to make sure that I was not in any imminent danger. When I followed up with my cardiologist, he concluded that it was a panic attack since all the tests showed no heart problems.
Panic attacks affect 6 million adults or 2.7% of the U.S. population. Women are twice as likely to be affected as men. An estimated 4.7% of U.S. adults experience panic disorder at some time in their lives.

Coping with Panic Attacks

Since starting therapy I have learned of ways to manage panic attacks. I would like to share a few of the strategies I have learned which have helped me.
  1. Breathing. I know this may sound corny but breathing has helped to cut the effects of a panic attack. In some cases, it has even stopped an attack. In moments when I begin to feel anxious or like I may spiral into a panic attack, I practice deep breathing. If I can, I find a quiet space or play some music (something soothing) and I do a few minutes of deep breathing. I inhale through my nose (into my belly) for a count of 5 then I hold that breath for a count of 2. After, I exhale through my lips (as if I am cooling hot soup) for another count of 5. I would do this with my eyes closed until my heart beat calms.
  2. Investigating. My mind is always “on” and I am always over thinking about my actions and the actions of others. When my mind starts to spiral out of control I have an internal conversation with myself. During this conversation, I attempt to pinpoint the reason for the way I am feeling at that moment. Why am I anxious? Why am I afraid? Why am I nervous? Usually, I am able to find the root or trigger, and that’s when I begin to look at the worst case scenario. I compare that worst case scenario and the reality of what will most likely happen. My former therapist always encouraged me to look at situations from a factual point. She would ask me to take the emotion out of the situation and look at the situation using facts. This usually works well for those anxiety-filled late nights when sleep in hard to find. 
  3. Grounding. I learned this method a few months ago from my current therapist. This focuses on my senses and connecting to what’s around me (getting me out of my head and thoughts). I find 5 things I can see, 4 things I can feel, 3 things I can hear, 2 things I can smell and 1 thing I can taste. This helps when it seems like I am losing control and falling down that hole.
If you suffer from panic attacks or any anxiety disorder reach out to your health care provider. Battling any anxiety disorder can be very lonely so having friends around me who at least try to understand this struggle has helped me.


Mayo Clinic  
National Institute of Mental health
Anxiety and Depression Association of America

Trapped by Social Anxiety


Have you ever avoided walking down a street because it was busy and you fear someone would say hello? Or do you drink glass after glass of alcohol in a social setting to stay “occupied?” Or have you ever left a party or event because interacting with people was so difficult? So difficult that you broke out in a cold sweat complete with nausea and heart palpitations? No?

Well, each scenario has happened to me and still happens from time to time. A trip outside my apartment often makes me feel like I’m on the reality show American Ninja Warrior. In those moments, I’m trying to make it through the social obstacle course without falling on my face. I know all this sounds extreme but this is my reality because I have social anxiety disorder.

What is Social Anxiety Disorder?

Social anxiety disorder is the persistent fear of social situations where a person is exposed to unfamiliar people. The person may also have an irrational fear of possible scrutiny by others. He or she fears that he or she will act in a way that will be embarrassing or humiliating

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) states that Social Anxiety disorder affects about 15 million American adults. It is the second most diagnosed anxiety disorder. Those with social anxiety disorder may exhibit unusual behavior when faced with social situations.

Affected individuals may avoid social situations. I know I have turned down many invites because I was afraid of social interaction. This behavior tends to lead to the isolation of the affected individual. 
Individuals affected by the disorder may use a safety mechanism when in social situations. When I get out of the house you will notice I always have my phone in hand checking messages or scrolling through Instagram. Also, if I know someone at that event I “cling” to that person. Sometimes, I use alcohol as my safety mechanism. I will always have a drink in my hand to seem occupied or normal. 
Affected individuals may try to escape uncomfortable social situations that cause anxiety. Many times I have left events early due to social anxiety disorder. Most times I agree to attend but only for a few minutes.

I hate feeling out-of-place and unfortunately, I feel like this most times I am around others in social settings. This feeling only becomes worse when someone asks “what’s wrong?” “Why are you so quiet?” I mean who would believe a 6’3 football built guy would have social anxiety? Although I wish I could hide away from the world, I know I can’t do that, I know this is something I must overcome. Recently, I have used a few strategies to help me tolerate social interaction and overcome this disorder. 

Three Strategies I Use to Overcome Social Anxiety.

While these strategies have been successful for me to varying degrees, they may not work for everyone. Finding what works best for you may involve some trial and error. My strategies include changing my way of thinking, support systems, and medication.

  1. Changing my way of thinking has helped me to take the focus off of myself. Most times I am deathly afraid of being judged by others or  embarrassing myself. I have come to the realization that people are not thinking about me. They are busy with their own thoughts, fears, and insecurities. I often remind myself of this when I encounter uncomfortable social settings.
  2. About a year ago I found out about a support group for those with social anxiety. Of course, I was reluctant at first to attend this group because of my anxiety and I felt ashamed. After the first meeting, I felt a great sense of relief because I was able to speak with others who dealt with the same disorder. I was able to ask questions without fear or judgment. What was even more important is that I was able to support others by sharing my experience. I still attend these support meetings every so often as a sort of check and also to help others.
  3. After a difficult summer of 2017, I considered medication option for anxiety. I began taking a Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitor (SSRI). SSRI’s are the first line of medications considered when treating social anxiety. Serotonin (a chemical that has a variety of functions in the human body) plays an integral part in regulating mood, sleep, appetite, and pain. Reduced serotonin transmission can contribute to anxiety (and depression). I am taking sertraline which increases the availability of serotonin.

While I have never been big on taking medication, I can say I have noticed some change since starting the medication. If you are struggling with social anxiety disorder, then I urge you to seek help. While there is no one thing that will fix the disorder it can get better.



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